A Simple Post about Transubstantiation

With all the news about the new Pope, I’ve been thinking about the doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants. I do not come from a Catholic background, but one thing I’ve never understood is the doctrine of transubstantiation.

First, other than Catholic tradition or dogma, what reason is there to think the doctrine is actually true?

Second, since Catholics do believe it is true, why don’t they also consider themselves to be practicing cannibalism–the eating of the flesh of another person–every time they eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ? And, even if they have some way to get around the label of cannibalism, from a purely subjective point of view, this doctrine is literally disgusting to me. If I were a Catholic and believed transubstantiation, every time I took the Eucharist I would be grossed out.

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About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • ImRike

    “First, other than Catholic tradition or dogma, what reason is there to think the doctrine is actually true?”

    I grew up catholic, and I never had a problem thinking about the truth of the dogma; my thoughts always were “why have such a disgusting dogma in the first place? What purpose does it serve?”
    I don’t think most catholics ever give it much thought, so again, what purpose does it serve?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Newsham/1421558174 Michael Newsham

      From an Anglican Bishop in the good old days (nowadays they range from Anglo-Catholic trans- all the way over to Broad Church cons)

      “Archbishop John Tillotson decried the “real barbarousness of this Sacrament and Rite of our Religion”, considering it a great impiety to believe that people who attend Holy Communion
      “verily eat and drink the natural flesh and blood of Christ. And what
      can any man do more unworthily towards a Friend? How can he possibly use
      him more barbarously, than to feast upon his living flesh and blood?” ( Discourse against Transubstantiation, London 1684, 35).

      (from Wiki)

  • Jason Thibodeau

    So, as I understand it (and I did grow up Catholic) the doctrine has it that the bread and wine are changed in their substance but not in their accidental features. So, in its essential features, the bread has been changed; in substance it is the flesh of Christ. In terms of sensible features, it still has all and only those of bread.

    One good question is whether this is even coherent. If something looks, tastes, feels, smells, nourishes, and is digested as bread is, does it even make sense to suggest that it is something other than bread? I think that, at the very least, it conflicts rather strongly with the atomic theory of matter.

    As to whether Catholics ought to be disgusted, I suppose that the fact that it tastes like bread at the very least takes the edge off. It probably also helps that most Catholics don’t really believe that the bread has actually become the flesh of Christ. To the extent that they think about it, most probably assume that it is supposed to be symbolic. The whole thing (communion) is a very elaborate ritual and I think that it is natural to interpret rituals symbolically. That is just a guess, but this is what I thought it was when I was young (again, to the extent that I thought about it at all).

    As for those who really do understand the doctrine and believe it, I am not sure that they should be grossed out. After all, they believe that this is a ritual prescribed and sanctified by God. Yes, they are eating human flesh, but this is also the flesh of God, consumption of which symbolically represents the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. To a Catholic, the wonder of that is what is salient.

    If there is something to be disgusted by in the ritual, it is with the idea that the sins of all humanity can be forgiven by having one man killed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

      ‘ If something looks, tastes, feels, smells, nourishes, and is digested as bread is, does it even make sense to suggest that it is something other than bread? ‘

      And does it make sense to claim that the Christian god has created a comprehensible world and so invented science about 33 AD, when also claiming that science is powerless to detect what this bread and wine really is?

  • L.Long

    For one let’s say it is real. It still is not cannibalism as it is defined as eating your own species. Jesus is not human at best he is some weird hybrid of human and alien something. But as an X-catlick I can say that despite all the magic mumbo-jumbo I did not taste anything like jesus meat, which since he aint real explains a lot about the taste. But even when I considered the seminary I never believed it was the ACTUAL body (we never had the wine so cannot comment on the blood) but it was ‘TRUE’ in the metaphoric sense of the celebration of the Last Supper.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      Even if I were a theist–indeed, even if I were a Christian theist–I just can’t imagine believing that the bread and wine are the actual substance of Jesus, as opposed to a metaphor for the celebration of the Last Supper.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

        But Catholics do believe it is the actual substance of Jesus.


        The web page makes clear that if something looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it might be Jesus.

        • Jason Thibodeau

          “Catholics believe it” means it is Catholic doctrine. But I am sure that there are many Catholics that don’t believe it (they believe it is a symbol).

        • Greg G.

          Ducks float on water and Jesus walks on water. What else floats in water? Wood. Therefore Jesus is made of wood.

          • Keith Parsons

            Greg G,

            And who are you so wise in the ways of science? Thanks for the Monty Python allusion. Of course, any atheist contemplating Catholic dogma (or doctrine) will feel that he has been transported into some sort of Monty-Python-esque alternate reality. In that reality every sperm is sacred and the Spanish Inquisition can pop out at any moment to torture you with comfy chairs and soft pillows. Actually, proving Poe’s Law yet again, no satire, even one born of the fevered brains of Michael Palin, Eric Idle, John Cleese, etc. can match the reality. The question is why. Why does the Catholic Church, and other totalitarian organizations, want to make its followers believe bizarre things? I think it is simply that if you can get intelligent, educated human beings (and some Catholics are very intelligent and very educated) to believe that a few magic words spoken by a priest can turn wine and bread into the flesh and blood of someone who died 2000 years ago, you have demonstrated that you can get people to believe anything, literally anything. This is an awesome degree of power. Those who wield mere reason as their only weapon cannot hope to match that power. The danger, of course, is that as Voltaire observed long ago, anybody who can get you to believe nonsense can get you to commit atrocities.

          • Jason Thibodeau

            The Catholic Church wants people to believe things, which are bizarre. With that I can agree. But I don’t think that it follows that the Catholic Church wants it to be the case that people believe bizarre things.

            The Catholic Church doesn’t regard any of their beliefs as bizarre. So a good question is, why not? I think that the answer does have something to do with the notion of dogma, at least as Paul Grimm explains it above. Many of the things that Catholics accept as dogma were accepted more than a thousand years ago, before the advent of science, modern history, medicine, etc. And, given that these things are dogma, Catholic teaching is that they are settled and cannot be revisited.

            In the context of modern science, it is bizarre to think that a piece of bread can become the body of a person who lived 2,000 years ago. But, I suppose, this wouldn’t have seemed as bizarre to a pre-modern mind.

            So, I don’t see it as primarily a matter of manipulation, I see it as a failure to revisit beliefs in the light of new evidence and new understanding. It is a product of the calcification of belief.

          • Keith Parsons


            I think the issue is not whether the Catholic Church would regard as bizarre the same beliefs that I (with good reason, I think) regard as bizarre. From an insider’s perspective there are no bizarre beliefs. For a Mormon it is not bizarre to claim that Native Americans are the lost tribes of Israel. For the Scientologist, Dianetics makes perfect sense, For a Stalinist, Lysenkoist genetic theory was sound. For Raelians, the Elohim were advanced E.T.’s who visited the earth ages ago. For a Tea Party Republican it makes perfect sense to rail that th’ Fed-rul Gummint should keep its cotton pickin’ hands off’n my Medicare. And so on.

            The issue is that some organizations continue to inculcate and reinforce certain dogmas for century after century, long after the absurdity of those ideas has become manifest to everyone not a member of the organization. Why? I think that with respect to the Catholic Church, the only answer is that exercising such control is essential to the maintenance of totalitarian institutions.

            My use of the term “totalitarian” applied to the Catholic Church was not employed lightly. I did not toss it out as a piece of agitprop, nor did I intend it as an insult.. Rather, I think that the Catholic Church literally fits the dictionary definition (American Heritage): “…a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life.” All aspects of life, down to what you can and cannot do with your genitals. As Orwell brilliantly observed, however, the primary form of control is the control of belief. If you can get people to believe that war is peace, freedom is slavery, and love is hate, you can get them to believe, and do, anything. Churches talk about faith, love, and charity, but by far the most important religious virtue is obedience. Obedience can be forced, but forced obedience is highly unreliable. Willful obedience arises from conviction, and so the manipulation of conviction is of the highest priority for totalitarian systems.

          • Jason Thibodeau

            I agree that the Catholic Church has totalitarian tendencies. And I would also agree that, at some points in the history of Europe, the Church really was a totalitarian system of political control. However, would you not agree that the Church’s methods of exerting control are much diminished since the time of the Inquisition, for example?

            Just today I told a student (who happens to be Catholic) that I am glad that I live at a moment in history when the Catholic Church realizes that the worst thing it can do to someone is excommunication.

            Now, it is also true that there are more subtle and indirect methods of control that the Church has access to, but I think that the fact that they no longer resort to torture, imprisonment, and death moves them some distance away from extreme forms of totalitarianism.

            But my point is not to defend the Catholic Church against the charge of being totalitarian. I only wanted to express skepticism about the claim that the Church wants people to believe weird things because of a desire for total control. Perhaps I am naive (and I would be happy to be proven wrong), but I suspect that it is possible for very intelligent people to believe very bizarre things for very bad reasons, which, despite their intelligence, they do not recognize as being bad reasons.. And I think that this is an accurate description of the Catholic Church (and most churches, for that matter). Of course, this is a generalization. Some people in the hierarchy may be primarily interested in control. I don’t know.

          • Keith Parsons


            Yes, you are right. I think one indisputable way that life is better than it was in the Bad Old Days is that the Church has very little temporal power. Anyone who bashes secularism as a force in history must, I think, concede that this is real progress. Instead of dungeon, fire, and sword, the Church now uses a charm offensive. This has been much in evidence over the last couple of weeks with the new pope, and it amazes me how the media lap it up. Peter Jennings has practically fawned over Francis I.

            Call me cynical (I am, in fact), but I see the “nice” church in much more Machiavellian terms. Machiavelli said that if you have to choose between being loved and feared, it is better to be feared. The Church can no longer rack and burn people, so it is no longer nearly as fearsome. Though in maintaining control fear is best, if you can no longer be feared, you try to be loved. Of course, the only way to test my thesis would be to give the Church back its temporal power and see if it goes back to the strappado and the stake–and I am not that anxious to be proven right! Still, one thing that makes me think that the “nice” persona is more show than substance is the handling of the various pedophile priest scandals. Time and again predator priests were merely moved to a different parish, probably with and admonition to be good, but really just giving them fresh victims. The typical reaction by the hierarchy was to deny and conceal rather than confront the problem. Not nice.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

            ‘In that reality every sperm is sacred and the Spanish Inquisition can pop out at any moment to torture you with comfy chairs and soft pillows.’

            You are a Catholic the instant your dad came….

          • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

            At least he’s high in fibre.

  • James Guillory

    “First, other than Catholic tradition or dogma, what reason is there to think the doctrine is actually true?”
    I was raised Catholic. And more recently was pressured to join a Missouri Synod Lutheran church ( which is more catholic than the Catholic church). Here is how it seems to work:
    Dogma is by definition truth. It is revealed knowledge given to the church leaders who then pass it on to the faithful. If you don’t agree with your church’s dogma, then you are wrong. If you observe something that contradicts the dogma, you observation is wrong. If your rational arguments disagree with dogma, then your arguments are wrong. Any questions? Go ahead and ask. Just remember your question is automatically wrong if it questions the dogma.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

    I am a practicing Catholic. First off I would like to clarify your question. Transubstantiation is not Catholic doctrine. It is Catholic Dogma. The words are not synonymous. Yes Catholics believe in the real prescence of the Eucharist. The bread and wine turn into the body and blood of Christ. I understand that this is an atheist blog but I would like to point out that there are many new testament verses that Catholics have that talk about transubstantiation. Almost all of John Chapter 6 comes to mind. We have set up perpetual adoration chapels where you can physically spend time with Jesus. What is a more intimate was to encounter Jesus then to consume Him? We dont think of eating our God as cannibalism or as deicide but as Jesus intimately becoming part of us. God physically comes through the species of bread and wine in a similar way to the incarnation.
    There are multiple Eucharist miracles that you can still see today such as the miracle of lanciano. A google search for Eucharistic miracles shows many more than just this one. http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/lanciano.html

    • Jason Thibodeau

      Can you elaborate on the distinction between doctrine and dogma?

      • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

        Sure there is a hierarchy of beliefs. Dogma are the cornerstones. For example. The mystery of the trinity. The incarnation. The immaculate conception. Transubstantiation. The sacraments.

        Doctrine are some of the things that can be changed such as the order of the mass. Celibacy of the priesthood. Purgatory. To name a few.

        You cannot have the doctrine without the dogma. For example you cannot have the doctrine of purgatory without the dogma of eternal salvation or damnation.

        There are also disciplines of the church which are less important than doctrines. Such as the amount of time that you fast before receiving the Eucharist. Or abstaining from meet on Fridays in lent. Or which way the priest faces at mass.

        • Jason Thibodeau

          Interesting. Thanks. I had some sense that there was a distinction, but this certainly aids my understanding.

          I suppose that everything in the Nicene creed is dogma (including the claim that the holy spirit proceeds from the son)?

          My larger question here is whether differences over doctrine can be sufficient to cause excommunication? or only dogmatic disagreements?

          • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

            Yes the Nicene creed is dogmatic. Including “Who procedes from the Father and the Son.” (Not just the Son) Just wanted to clarify your question.

          • Jason Thibodeau

            Yes. This isn’t a big deal or anything. Your posts made me realize that the appropriate thing to say about Cerularius is that, in addition to his other offenses, he was teaching something contrary to dogma. I mean, I’ve long understood the filioque dispute, it just never occurred to me that, properly speaking, it is about dogma.

            Was Cerularius’ excommunication rescinded?

          • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

            This is from wikipedia.

            “Thus, Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida delivered a notice of excommunication against Patriarch Michael on July 16, 1054, despite the death of Pope Leo three months prior and thus the invalidity of the excommunication. Michael in turn excommunicated the cardinal and the Pope and subsequently removed the pope’s name from the diptychs starting the East-West Schism.

            This schism led to the end of the alliance between the Emperor and the Papacy, and caused later Popes to ally with the Normans against the Empire. Patriarch Michael closed the Latin churches in his area which exacerbated the schism. In 1965, those excommunications were rescinded by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras when they met in the Second Vatican Council. Although the excommunication delivered by Cardinal Humbert was invalid, this gesture represented a significant step towards restoring communion between Rome and Constantinople.”

          • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

            Also in this post I am assuming that you are referring to major excommunication as that is what I have described.
            There is also minor excommunication where one denies the Eucharist to someone. This has happened to notable “Catholics” such as John Kerry, Kathleen Sebelius, Joe Biden, and Nancy Pelosi.

          • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

            In order to answer your second question let me first make sure that we are on the same page with excommunication. Excommunication is a formal declaration that someone is not preaching the dogmatic teachings of the Catholic Church yet they are saying that they are Catholic.
            Catholics do not excommunicate non-Catholics.
            This also does not mean that the excommunicated person is going to hell.
            You can question dogma and doctrine and not be excommunicated. Its only when you start teaching false dogma (we also call this heresy) and say that this is taught by the Catholic Church.
            So you can break off of the Catholic Church and make your own Christian denomination and teach false (according to the Catholic Church) dogma and you will not be excommunicated.
            As for teaching false doctrine and saying that it is what the Vatican teaches, I am not sure if that is grounds for excommunication or not as I am not a Cannon Lawyer.
            Does this answer your second question?

          • vytas

            But you can get excommunicated for much more than teaching false dogma. Remember the rather recent developments in Brasil with a pregnant nine-year old girl raped by her stepfather? you can get excommunicated by having an abortion, committing an abortion, aiding an abortion. But apparently not for raping or killing someone or committing genocide or starting a needless war or famine.

          • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

            I dont know about this Brazilian case but if it is what you say it is then the grounds of excommunication were not met. The excommunication was not valid. We have this wonderful thing in our church for people that are sinners (like all of humanity) called reconciliation.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      Sorry if I am being dense, but how does “almost all of John chapter 6″ support the Catholic dogma that the bread and wine become the “substance” of Christ, as opposed to a metaphor?

      • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

        John 6:52-56. That’s precisely what the people he was preaching to asked him. He answered with a lot of “truly”s and “indeeds”

        • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

          Also He lost a lot of disciples over this. It states this in john 6:66

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          Hmmm… This isn’t meant to be a counter-argument, but when I read 6:52-56, I have the impression that Jesus was speaking metaphorically while his audience was interpreting him literally. (Cf. John 6:35: I don’t think (?) anyone thinks Jesus was or claimed to be a literal loaf of bread.) The whole narrative just seems to make more sense when interpreted metaphorically.

          • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

            That’s fine. I’m just stating the catholic belief. I posted some more scripture and other early church documents that point to transubstantiation. Also if you read the didache, it’s only a couple pages long, you will see more writings of the apostles on this

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm
    • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

      Just a little more scripture to back up what Catholics believe

    • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm
    • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

      This is what the catechism says about it. If you read 1345 it shows the workings of the first century mass. Remember that this predates the council of hippo where the bible was all put together in the 300s. It hasn’t changed from then till now.

      • Chris

        The bible has changed, in the sense that the Protestant bible is different from the Catholic bible, by nine books iirc.

        • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

          Sorry I shouldn’t have used the word “it” as it wasn’t clear. I meant the mass hasn’t changed. Also the Catholic bible hasn’t changed but that is beside the point.

        • Sven2547

          By nine books? I don’t think so. I’ve never heard of a Protestant denomination with any different books. If you use apocryphal texts like the Book of Jubilees, the Gospel according to Thomas, the Shepard of Hermus, etc. then you are a tiny fringe sect indeed.

          • http://www.facebook.com/mr.alexanderson Alexander S Anderson

            Not those books. Wisdom, Maccabees I and II, Sirach, Tobit, and a few others. All of them are in the Old Testament and are included in Catholic but not Protestant bibles.

          • Faith

            The Catholic/Orthodox church added these books centuries later. These books were never part of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) that Jesus new and taught from. They don’t add up as the inspired word of God, have many contradictions, and so on.

  • joeclark77

    “First, other than Catholic tradition or dogma, what reason is there to think the doctrine is actually true?”

    Three answers:
    1. Our Lord said that it was true (especially in John ch. 6).
    2. There are a number of Eucharistic miracles you can go and look at.
    3. The big one (which Protestants don’t get) is that, if you believe the Church is what she says she is, then you ought to believe that what she teaches is Truth. (And if you believe in the Bible, then you should believe that the Church is what she says she is.) So a Catholic can say that he believes every teaching of the Church is true, even if he hasn’t read the entire Catechism yet. And if he does read the Catechism, and comes across a teaching that he is personally inclined to disagree with, then he tries to accepts in humility that it is more likely he is wrong than the doctors of the Church.
    A Protestant on the other hand will say that he needs to personally evaluate every single doctrine and form his own opinion on it, before he can say whether he believes it or not. And if his personal inclination is to disagree, then he assumes that the Church is wrong and he is right.
    The difference isn’t really one of theology but of intellectual humility. In science we have the concept of “standing on the shoulders of giants”. It is also just plain common sense that if tens of thousands of wise men, saints and theologians from all over the world for many centuries teach that something is true, and I personally know that I’m not an expert, I should default to trusting their conclusions until I understand their arguments and have good reason to disagree. The attitude of the Protestant (or atheist) is the opposite: assume your own instincts are right by default, until proven otherwise.

    • Brap Gronk

      “It is also just plain common sense that if tens of thousands of wise
      men, saints and theologians from all over the world for many centuries
      teach that something is true, and I personally know that I’m not an
      expert, I should default to trusting their conclusions until I
      understand their arguments and have good reason to disagree.”

      But I suspect you are an expert. Are there any scenarios where you have difficulty differentiating between bread and human flesh?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

        ‘Are there any scenarios where you have difficulty differentiating between bread and human flesh?’

        Perhaps he has difficulty when he’s got a bit too much wine inside him?

    • vytas

      intellectual humility is also not thinking that you (and your 1.2 million Catholic friends) got it right and the rest of the world’s nearly 6 billion people who believe otherwise got it wrong. Especially when even the majority of the 1.2 million Catholics, including many cleargy, question or openly disbelieve many dogmas and doctrines. Intellectual humility is not to assume that one out of hundreds of existing religions is correct in everything.

      • joeclark77

        No, I’m talking about once you have accepted that Christianity is true. If Christianity is true, the Church is what she says she is, and all the other teachings that she teaches can be trusted. It is a lot more philosophically and intellectually sound then Protestantism, which contradicts itself with “but…. but…. but…” in a tortured logic that makes sense only if you have set out beforehand to attain the conclusion that Christianity is true but somehow Catholicism is wrong. So what I mean is *if* you believe that Christianity is true, it’s much simpler to believe transubstantiation is true than to come up with a rationalization for why it’s false. BTW, Christianity is true.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

    The metaphysics the Catholic church uses to describe Transubstantiation shows how averse to science religion really is.

    It would appear that things like baryon number, charge, strangeness, etc etc are not fundamental properties of things, but mere ‘accidents’, like the way the Moon appears to be crescent shaped at one moment in time, but disc-shaped at another moment in time.

    According to the Church, there can be no fundamental properties of nature, no fundamental particles, as everything that can be observed is a mere ‘accident’, and the actual ‘substance’ can be swapped in and out like changing a tyre, leaving the ‘accidents’ unchanged.

    The Church’s explanation of Transubstantiation is as outdated as claims that everything is made of the elements of fire, water, air and earth, but clung to even more obstinately than people clung on to the idea that phlogiston existed.

  • Gregory

    Dear Steven Carr,

    There are actually a very large number of metaphysicians, philosophers, who are not part of the catholic church but do not think that physical atoms are the only way of talking about reality. In fact, presently, many of them are returning to Aristotelian practices after both the Kantian and linguistic turns. Quarks etc haven’t been found to contradict traditional metaphysics as far as I am aware – I mean I don’t think there is anything resembling consensus. If you have anything to substantiate this claim I would be very interested, sincerely,


    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

      ‘There are actually a very large number of metaphysicians, philosophers, who are not part of the catholic church but do not think that physical atoms are the only way of talking about reality.’

      So you reject the scientific idea that there are fundamental particles with fundamental properties and that things like charge , baryon number, spin, are not ‘accidents’, but are fundamental properties of the universe which are conserved?

      And the Church is increasingly rejecting scientific thought developed after Aristotle, and returning to Aristotelian practices…..

  • Jack Bobzien

    To start off I am catholic and do believe in transubstantiation. Now with regards to it being cannibalism that is a fair claim and exactly how the first reaction by the Jews went. They were disgusted and the lack of clarification and saying it is a parable (which Jesus often did) but instead repeating himself again is why Catholics claim it isn’t metaphorical. Now to answer the idea of it being disgusting if Christianity is true and Jesus is God and has been resurrected then his body is of a different nature than ours. Also in Jewish culture they do not eat meat with the animals blood since that represents life which belonged only to God. Also there are lots of Passover and sacrificial themes woven into the idea but I hope I have some insight into how a Catholic views the matter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/crazzeto Carlo Razzeto

    I believe the real presense is the doctrine, transubstation is a theology which explains the doctrine held by orthodox christianity since the beginning. In addition to the Western Rite Roman Catholics more familiar to protestants today, the same basic doctrine of real presense is held by Eastern Catholics, Eastern Orothodox Christians as well Oriental Orthodox Christians.

    I will quote St. Justin Martyr on this matter, a saint who was one of the earliest to write on the subject matter of worship in a complete form, and he had some arguments describing what is believed in the real presence and he also addresses your canibalism argument which, actually, was one of the earliest arguments used against Christians and was frequently referenced when Christians were to be persecuted. The following was written in 155 AD.


    And this food is called among us Eukaristia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.

    For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with”

    St. Justin Martyr describing accounts of accusations made against Christians in his day

    “For I myself, too, when I was delighting in the doctrines of Plato, and heard the Christians slandered, and saw them fearless of death, and of all other things which are counted fearful, perceived that it was impossible that they could be living in wickedness and pleasure. For what sensual or intemperate man, or who that counts it good to feast on human flesh,[4] could welcome death that he might be deprived of his enjoyments, and would not rather continue always the present life, and attempt to escape the observation of the rulers; “

  • Clifford Banes

    In my religious days I was an evangelical Protestant, but I never felt the revulsion towards the dogma of transubstantiation that my fellow travelers seemed to. It seemed unnecessary, and I certainly didn’t believe in it, but it never seemed nonsensical or disgusting. If you already believe in the concept of a soul inhabiting a body via some undetectable, supernatural means that transcends the gross physical properties of said body, then why couldn’t that means also be applied to a “body” of a different form, e.g., bread and wine? Just as Jesus’s soul inhabited a human body for a time, couldn’t it inhabit food? The cannibalism complaint always struck me as far-fetched, since the food doesn’t take on any physical qualities of human meat.

    But of course that was just me rationalizing something I only half understood. It wasn’t until long after I became atheist that I read about Decartes and what the “substance” in that word actually meant. I’m not sure if my interpretation can be squared with the dogma at all… but I’ll leave the theologians to their work.